Book Review: Seanan McGuire’s Half-Off Ragnarok

Posted October 7, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Seanan McGuire’s Half-Off Ragnarok

Half-Off Ragnarok


Seanan McGuire

urban fantasy that was published by DAW Books on March 4, 2014 and has 356 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Home Improvement: Undead Edition, Indexing, The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination, Midway Relics and Dying Breeds, Games Creatures Play, The Winter Long, Sparrow Hill Road, The InCryptid Prequels, Pocket Apocalypse, Black as Blood, Blocked, White as a Raven's Wing, The Ghosts of Bourbon Street, IM, "Good Girls Go to Heaven", A Red Rose Chain, "Full of Briars", Reflections, Once Broken Faith, "Dreams and Slumbers", Shadowed Souls, Chaos Choreography, Magic For Nothing, Indigo, Every Heart a Doorway, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, The Brightest Fell, "Of Things Unknown"

Third in the InCryptid paranormal romance series and revolving around the Price family. The couple focus is on Alex Price, alias Dr. Alexander Preston, and Dr. Shelby Tanner.

My Take

I’ve enjoyed the first two books of this series, this one, not so much. While Alex did crack me up with some of his observations: “Sometimes science sucks…”, “commit senseless acts of science”, and that he chose a profession that thought running toward danger was a good idea, he isn’t as entertaining to read about as his sister Verity.

I suspect my lack of enjoyment stemmed from the lack of tension. McGuire brought in a good bit of new information about cryptids, and there were opportunities for drama and tension, but she didn’t go into any depth on those possibilities. Two of them include the worry about the Covenant becoming concerned about dead people and the fricken population increasing to the point that they are classified as “normal” *eek* and opening a window into the cryptid world. But they’re more excuses than anything.

I do love how environmentally aware the Prices are. Knowing how smaller cryptids are faring “can be used as a general barometer of an area’s well-being”. It certainly helps their relationships with the cryptids.

Interesting tidbit about unicorns, lol. Then there’s that nonchalant manner of discussing basilisk and cockatrice differences…mmm, love the idea of the crunchy outside and chewy inside, *eye roll and laughter*

“I have always enjoyed the company of dangerous women. Fortunately for me, many of them seem to enjoy the company of dangerous men.”

– Thomas Price

Oh, man, Shelby’s question about proper cultural greetings when they get to the gorgon village cracked me up. Such a great way to turn the tension around! There’s a great soliloquy from Alex on the difference between whos and whats and how guilt is portioned out. It makes perfect sense to me as well as to Frank. It’s odd, but Alex comes across as a pacifist until it’s down to the wire, then he gets all intellectual alpha. I love it. He makes such perfect sense. He’s tough. He’s not willing to back down. But he is willing to give the other side as much room as possible. And he will not lie about his intentions.

Alex is terrible with women. He hasn’t a clue. And Shelby is an interesting person. I do like her reasons for wanting to date Alex, although it’s her after-behavior that I find reprehensible. That interim scene in the kitchen drove me nuts! Alex is being perfectly reasonable if a bit off the wall, and Shelby keeps arguing with him. WTF? Hullo?? Alex is making requests and he’s obviously in pain. Just shut up and do what he asks. Stop questioning every little detail!!! Pin him down afterwards. I wanted to smack her silly. Although, it’s one of the best scenes in the book; the fire was good as well.

I’m not getting why Alex would be satisfied going to the theater when what he truly wants to do is be investigating. This whole thing about Alex’s impatience and having to cancel dates with Shelby so he can write his reports, etc. … what is the hurry? It feels manufactured.

“Playing fair is for people who don’t mind playing to lose.”

– Kevin Price

Ooh, we get a mention of Rose Marshall from Sparrow Hill Road! I loved Rose, even if she did make me cry.

Wait a minute, Shelby is from Australia, and from what she says, she’s very familiar with the great outdoors/outback. So, why does she have such a tough time being quiet in the woods?

The bad guy finally has his day, and I can’t believe his reasons for running amuck. Okay, well, I get a couple of them, but the rest? I guess they’re as good as any dumb humans’, but really? All this over that?

I suspect that McGuire is setting Alex up to stay on in Columbus.

The Story

Alex is faking it as a visiting researcher at the West Columbus Zoo. It’s a great coverup for Alex’s true task: finding out what was happening to the frogs and looking over the basilisk breeding program.

Unfortunately, he’s a better scientist than he is a boyfriend, always with the excuses as he cancels date after date. It is not endearing him to Shelby. Of course, Shelby’s latest course of actions isn’t endearing her to him. As if he doesn’t have enough trouble with the lindworm, Aeslin mice worrying about the Heartless Ones, and Sarah unable to find her numbers.

The Characters

Alex Price is Verity’s brother (named for his great-grandfather, one of the premiere cryptozoologists of his time), a.k.a., the God of Scales and Silence, a.k.a., Dr. Alex Preston, and passionate about his science, even if it does take him through swamps. The dragon at the San Francisco Zoo would vouch for him. Crow is his Church Griffin, a breed of miniature griffin with bratty behavior. Alex has his own congregation of Aeslin mice (they worship the Prices as gods and are thought to be extinct by the world) whom I adore. Although, in Half-Off Ragnarok, they aren’t as much fun.

His maternal grandparents, the Bakers, live right there in Columbus and are excellent at blending in, for Angela‘s a cuckoo and Martin‘s a Revenant — think Frankenstein — who works as a coroner for the city. The children they adopted included Evelyn, Drew, and Sarah, the cuckoo “cousin” whom they’ve taken in after she saved Verity in Midnight Blue-Light Special, 2.

Verity was the dancing protagonist in Discount Armageddon, 1, and Midnight Blue-Light Special. Dominick is former-Covenant and Verity’s boyfriend; they’re making a road trip with weapons and mice to Oregon. Antimony is the sister we’ve only heard of — and I’m terrified of meeting her! Evelyn and Kevin are their parents in Oregon. Aunt Mary died decades go, but it doesn’t keep her from family parties. Alice Price is Alex’s paternal grandmother and “as stable as the San Andreas fault”. Artie is another cousin, although half-incubus, and in love with Sarah.

Deanna “Dee” Lynn Taylor de Rodriguez keeps the records in the reptile room and functions as Alex’s assistant — she knows her reptile strike zones, since she’s a Pliny gorgon. Her husband, Frank (Franklin Javier Lusczando de Rodriguez), is a doctor, and they have a daughter, Megan. Her people live outside town in a carefully hidden area. Hannah is one of the leaders of the community and a mix of Pliny and Medusa gorgons. The Pliny gorgons’ fringe element, those who want complete independence from humans, live a little further out. Walter is their leader and Dee’s brother. Marian is part of the fringe community.

Alex is dating Dr. Shelby Tanner, a visiting Australian biologist who does a tiger show for the zoo aimed at bringing up the zoo’s attendance. Turns out Shelby has Flora, a garrinna. Lloyd is a guard at the zoo. Andrew, Kim, and Nelson are some of the keepers in the reptile area. Crunchy is a big snapping turtle. Nicole is an intern driving Shelby nuts with her obliviousness. Big Ted is the biggest of the zoo’s alligators.

Chandi is a wadjet, a type of dragon, who keeps breaking into the zoo, bonding with her fiancé, Shami — that bond is life-crucial. The male wadjets look like spectacled cobras while the females appear human. Dr. Kumari Sarpa, pediatrician, is Chandi’s mother; Daksha is her father.

The Prices are descendants of two good Covenant families: the Healys, some of the best assassins in the society, and the Prices, who were devoted to scholarship.

Fricken are frogs with feathers. A lindworm is 18-feet long, reptilian, and predatory. There are three varieties of gorgons: the very dangerous greater gorgons, Pliny gorgons, and the more common lesser gorgons. Cuckoos, a.k.a., Johrlac, are telepathic sociopaths who manipulate peoples’ memories; they also have a “racial obsession with math”. Cockatrice are a type of basilisk. Garrinna are marsupial griffins.

The Covenant of St. George is an organization determined to wipe out all cryptids (supernaturals). The Thirty-Six Society is an Australian group and anti-Covenant. Well, the Covenant did try to have Australia declared anathema. Bill O’Malley was Angela and Martin’s neighbor, and he has a lot to “tell”.

The Cover and Title

The cover has a 1950s feel to it with the lurid colors and Shelby’s cleavage and shorts. That’s Alex in back, the “meek, mild” scientist who regularly carries a gun. Behind them is that part of the zoo that Alex oversees, the reptiles. How very appropriate!

The title is funny if overly dramatic for the story. There’s lots of talk about the dangers of the Covenant learning about events in Columbus, which would make it a Half-Off Ragnarok, but it never gets dramatic enough for this to be a possibility. Hmmm, maybe that’s why it’s “half-off”?